It is difficult to understate how much the world has changed over the past six months. Millions have lost loved ones; millions have been locked in their homes; those on the frontline have continued working in immensely challenging circumstances; greenhouse gas emissions have plummeted; in the UK 20 years of growth has disappeared in six months, and globally extreme poverty is rising for the first time in 40 years.
As Europe begins to move past the peak of this crisis, we must begin to look at how we want our world to change, based on what we have learnt from Coronavirus, so that the new normal is one of inclusivity and respect, where all rights, environmental and human, are protected. The crisis has brought immeasurable suffering- there is no taking away from that. But all this disruption has provided us with a once in a generation opportunity to make the sort of changes which might have taken decades in normal circumstances.
I am standing to be a Board member of the European Youth Forum because I believe we need to develop as an organisation so that we can show by our own example what it means to build back better. I believe we need to build on the work that the current Board has done to make the European Youth Forum more collaborative and transparent. And I believe we can do more to increase engagement with the forum’s work, and to support member organisations to increase engagement with the work that they do.
The British Youth Council is one of the most established and effective National Youth Councils in Europe. As a member of British Youth Council, I want to bring a knowledge and experience of working in an organisation which has lead the effort in the UK to make sure that young people have a seat at the table and which engages and empowers millions of young people every year. Young people are being disproportionately affected by the measures taken to control the spread of Coronavirus and we need youth organisations to be a fighting force for the rights and needs of young people.
Our two pioneering youth forums, The NHS Youth Forum and The Bank of England Youth Forum, have taken youth voice into the heart of the National Health Service and the Bank of England. It has been incredible to watch these youth forums develop, particularly as health and economics have been the central focus of government over the last six months. We have a hugely active Youth Parliament that engage and empower youth at a grassroots level. These are some of our most impactful programmes and I would bring knowledge of these and other programmes to the Board so we can maximise youth engagement across Europe.
The United Kingdom has the additional challenge of leaving the European Union at a time of deep economic, social, and environmental instability. It is important, especially at this time, for the voice of young people in the UK to maintain a connection to Europe and for young people in Europe to continue having access to what the UK can offer. Therefore, it would be useful for the Board of the European Youth Forum to have a UK representative who would use the forum to keep the opportunities and value that the UK’s partnership with the European Union brings to Europe.
Our generation will be remembered for what we do when faced with some of the greatest challenges the world has faced: climate change, cyberwarfare and civil wars, extreme poverty, automation and artificial intelligence, populism, social and economic instability, and pandemics – to name but a few. It is these challenges and our responses to them that will characterise the foreseeable future. To succeed, we need to unify our efforts by collaborating with others, and sharing our knowledge and experiences. We must empower young leaders, hold elected representatives to account, and campaign for the changes we want them to make. But politics is imperfect and our leaders can be fallible. This is where we need to build the sort of world world we would be proud to pass on to the next generation – today, we all need to be leaders.
I am standing to be a Board member of The European Youth Forum because I believe I can bring skills, knowledge, and ideas to better connect and empower youth organisations across Europe in pursuit of a better world. Over the next two months I will be releasing my manifesto alongside some blogs which will explain in more detail what I think the European Youth Forum can do to become a more resilient and successful organisation.
If you represent a Member Organisation to the European Youth Forum, I will be getting touch with you over the next few months. If you are a member of one of the European Youth Forum’s member organisations, I would love to hear your thoughts on how the European Youth Forum can lead the new normal. Please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a non-binary person, and as a trustee of the British Youth Council, I welcome the support and safety that our organisation gives to young, trans people like me. As trustees, part of our responsibility to our charity is the commitment to defend our aims and interests, with a strong part of that being ensuring the implementation of our equal opportunities policy in all of our work.
The recent news suggesting that the Government has dropped its two-year commitment to reforming the Gender Recognition Act has been worrying. In a piece published on the front page of The Times on Sunday, the Government announced that, despite 70,000 (70%) of respondents writing in favor of reform in the consultation, the Government will not be adhering to their wishes.
The Gender Recognition Act reforms propose a number of ideas which will allow people like myself, and other trans people, the ability to live our lives safely. The reforms propose amending the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which at the time was a groundbreaking law, but now leaves us trailing behind many other countries in Europe and across the world. Reforming the Act will mean we will not have to pay costly amounts to access our healthcare – which is exclusionary to most young and working-class members of our community, and we would not have to wait years, sometimes decades, for the services we require. It would give, amongst other rights, easier routes to get trans identities legally recognised, and a recognition of non-binary identities in law. It would mean no evidence requirement of lived experience, as the current law depends on a diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria, which is a complex requirement with degrading and unnecessary barriers.
Proposed reforms also include the right to self-determination, including for 16 and 17 year olds, through a much simpler and more streamlined administrative process. At the British Youth Council, we have fought for the rights of 16 and 17 year olds to vote for nearly two decades because we understand that at 16, we have the ability to understand the decisions that affect us. By empowering young people in the trans community, we strengthen our commitment to our members, and the trans community across the country.
Before I started my first role in the British Youth Council five years ago – in the rural South West – I had never met someone like me. I am proud that our charity gives opportunities to meet people like ourselves in a welcoming environment, and the chance to learn from others. The British Youth Council has helped me to be out and proud. As someone tasked with guiding the future of our organisation, I would like our trans members, staff, and our allies to know that I am here for you, I see you, and our charity will continue to defend our rights across the country. We stand in solidarity with trans rights charities, and activists who are fighting for our recognition and safety in our country today, and in the future.